Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"That's the reason they're called lessons," the Gryphon remarked (Alice In Wonderland)



"And how many hours a day did you do lessons?" said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

"Ten hours the first day," said the Mock Turtle: "nine the next, and so on."

"What a curious plan!" exclaimed Alice.

"That's the reason they're called lessons," the Gryphon remarked: "because they lessen from day to day."

Lewis Carroll (From Alice In Wonderland)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Learn why the world wags and what wags it (Merlin)

Photo by NASA on Unsplash


"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."

T.H. White (from The Once and Future King)

Monday, December 17, 2018

And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun (John Lennon/Yoko Ono)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Merry Christmas!

Although I'll be enjoying some Christmas cheer, for the next few weeks, Baggy Trousers will continue on lean rations. 

It's the end of the autumn term - a holiday period that neatly coincides with the festive season, including new year celebrations. We start again for the spring term on January 7.

In the meantime I'll be enjoying a well earned rest in beautiful north Wales, mulling over my new year resolutions.

Take it easy. See you on the other side, inshallah.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Down around the corner, half a mile from here, see them long trains run, and you watch them disappear (Doobie Brothers)

Photo by Roland Lösslein on Unsplash
Doing it tough at the moment - reading messages from NZ colleagues who are now on holiday until the end of January, while embarking on the final push towards the end of the Autumn term. 

Good on ya my peeps!

Sadly, it's a different picture for me - having arrived at the tail end of the long British summer, I'm on a lengthy run of two winters in a row with an autumn thrown in for funsies.

This term has been a long train running, with a mid term break coming as welcome relief, but still - it's 15 weeks long! 

Basically, like many people at school, I'm ready for a holiday!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The right way

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

Margaret Chase Smith

Monday, December 3, 2018

The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates)

Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash
Being away from home on a professional course, as I am at the moment, is a struggle for me sometimes. I inherited this from my father. 

For him, it was the lack of familiarity with places, food, and people that caused him anxiety. Especially food. 

And, when I think about it, it's worse. 

Socrates is right but sometimes self-awareness has a down side.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Nothing succeeds like a budgerigar

Photo by Vek Labs on Unsplash

There are numerous quotes about success (the theme of my prizegiving speech today) but I like Winston Churchill's one the most:

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped (Bob Dylan)


Episode three of the BBC's stunning School series has just aired and the grim situation at Marlwood School continued.

I mentioned the show to a fellow Head Teacher at a sporting event yesterday and he told me he refused to watch the show because the idea of it (exposing the current state of state education) made him too angry.

I get what he means. 

The Head Teacher at Marlwood is presented as a football manager whose team is far too expensive to run so he needs to beat Premier League teams with players  from a five-a-side league. Crazy.

Needless to say, by the end of the episode the poor sod had decided to leave the school and find another team. 

As the credits rolled more staff went and, although the school appears to have stabilized since, it is still in 'special measures'.

The nameless, deathless, school inspector introduced at the start of the episode had indicated that 'special measures' was designed to be stimulus for a short term turnaround of a school's fortunes.  

Hmmmmm.

All that seems to have been achieved in this case is a sorry list of deflated human capital. 

Teachers are a precious commodity and I felt large dollops of sympathy for the humanities teacher getting his feedback from a lesson observation.

There was no respite for him and the underfire Head Teacher.

Episode four next week. I'll need a week to mentally prepare myself.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The head teacher of Marlwood School in Gloucestershire faces a perfect storm.


The BBC documentary (School) about three academies facing austerity measures with drastic budget cuts and declining student numbers with declining behaviour standards has been riveting viewing so far.

Being a Head Teacher myself makes for a grim fascination as my colleagues go through budget meetings, confrontational parent meetings, endless student discipline issues, and OFSTED inspections.

In the second episode, the Head Teacher at 'special measures' Marlwood School in Glouchestershire reads from a previous, dismal, OFSTED attack on the school's leadership. 

Phew. Heavy. 

I felt for him. He seems like a decent bloke, with a family of four children, doing an impossible job.

At one point he reckons that the school has become like his fifth child (albeit a black sheep). 

Yikes.

Made me wonder about the job and the reasons why we do it,  and I admired  the hell out of him as he battled the academy trust's chief number cruncher and bean counter who, I suspect, will close the school down in episode 3.

Like I said, grimly fascinating and rivetting. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hooked on a feeling (Blue Suede)


Inspiration came up and smacked me in the face yesterday.

While I was visiting a Year 11 English class on my learning walk, thanks to a student doing her visual/verbal presentation, I learnt a lot about 'Success' as a thing.

Her presentation centered on making 'Success' into an acronym and was well received.

Along the way, she received some excellent feedback from her peers and from the teacher.

What stood out for me, was a message about five chimps.

These chimps represent the people you surround yourself with - your friendship circle in other words.

The implicit idea being to choose your five chimps wisely.

Trouble is that friendship choices tend to be more organic than that, or, at least, they were in my case.

In the past, I have gravitated towards people who love music, have a great sense of humour, are grafters, know themselves to the extent that they don't take themselves too seriously, and they have a good moral compass - they know right from wrong and they live worthy lives.

Good people. My chimps are good people.

I hope your chimps are too. If not, there's still time to change the road you're on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

All I needed was the love you gave, all I needed for another day, and all I ever knew, only you (Yazoo)


Looking over an A level Language paper recently, made me nostalgic for teaching an English class again.

The last time I actually did that was at Woodford House, two years ago.

Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.

It's the connections with students built up over time that makes teaching a class so special.

That allows you to see them pretty much every day so you learn their quirks. You see them on good days and average days (and even bad days if they're girls). You see them develop their thinking in bite size chunks. The nitty gritty.

Yes, the relationship is different to being a learning coach in the Learning Centre - my current context.

While I can help lead students to their own discoveries easy enough (my only way forward when confronted by maths problems is to ask them what strategies they've used already and then ask them what they could do next), that's not the same as conferencing a student through a critical response to a poem.

I can well understand why Principals/ Head Teachers decide to go back to the classroom.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Safe mode

Photo by Sam Rudkin-Millichamp on Unsplash
Thanks to a training course I went on during the week, my brain has been consumed by safeguarding issues since then.

For my New Zealand viewers, safeguarding refers to protecting children from abuse and maltreatment, preventing harm to children's health or development, ensuring children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care.

It was eye opening, exhaustive and exhausting.

The course was run by Sutton Council and the two presenters were extremely knowledgeable and remarkably interesting given they deliver this course often to educators.

I came away with two thoughts as I pootled back to school:

  • There ain't half a lot of sickos out there
  • Everyone I saw on the drive I regarded with suspicion

Given my well documented naivete - it was a well timed wake up call.

I hope I never have to use the training in my role (relentless positivity) but, sadly, my past experience tells me that's a forlorn hope.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I've been working so hard (Van Morrison)

More cheese Gromit?
Working mode profile

Sorry - must dash! Back to work today!

Have to leave Jacky home alone today - but it's okay - she's doing research on our next getaway - for the Christmas holidays.

Monday, October 22, 2018

L'amour est l'enfant de la liberté (The Rumour)

As a life-long learner, I am always looking for learning moments. 

They're always out there somewhere.

What an education it has been, staying in France for a few days.

I'm only semi-kidding when I suggest that most of the leavers who voted to Brexit did so after being on holiday in France.

There's always the vague feeling here that behind the (sometimes) smiley exterior are feelings of superiority over the British (we Kiwis clearly are mistaken for Brits over here).

If my wife and I manage to say we're from New Zealand we instantly get a different response.

Ar well - to quote Chuck Berry - "C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell".

We're back to familiar surroundings tomorrow with a Eurostar back to London from La Gare du Nord.

Who-rah! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

No more working for a week or two (Cliff Richard)


Half term.

What a great invention. Every six weeks or so, take a break! Reset! Refresh!

Some thoughts: 

  • This half term has sped by at an incredible clip
  • Splitting the year up into six mini terms makes it feel more like part of a cycle of learning
  • Families can enjoy each other's company regularly
  • Learning can consolidate
  • I can go to France on the Eurostar
  • Genius
Insert smiley face.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Since you've been gone (Rainbow)



If Self-Directed Learning is the answer, what was the problem?

This was the big poser from Teacher Academy's induction course last week.

The bottom row of beautifully hand crafted red boxes (above) was our group's response.

It says the problem was:

  • Teacher led lessons and approaches were the norm  
  • Students needed to have more focused targets and goals
  • Students were leaving school and entering the business world with a limited range of life learning soft skills 
  • The detrimental effects of an industrial teaching and learning model 

Because of those four things - something had to change and Self-Directed Learning (SDL) was the vehicle needed to make that change.

The yellow boxes sitting on top of the problem indicate what SDL brings to the party. 

The little Lego figure is our OneSchool Global student with her/his eureka moment.

Ta Dar!!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

If only you believe like I believe, baby, (If only you believe like I believe) we'd get by (Jefferson Starship)


Primary school teachers are very different to secondary ones.

Shock!

Hardly a revelation I know, but I've been at Teacher Academy for a few days recently for induction and really enjoyed the mix of approaches when it comes to workshop/learning activities.

There were around 50 new inductees at that event - it's a big organisation!

We had to answer a big question: If Self-Directed Learning is the answer - what was the problem?

My group was made up of 5 - two secondary blokes and three female primary teachers; all different ages (I was mos def the oldest).

It was fun and the mix of approaches worked with leadership, creativity, problem-solving, laughter, mucking in and presentation attributes and skills all on display.

Thanks to that mix!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Let's go cruisin', that's all I wanna to do - cruisin' in my automobile (Jefferson Starship)

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash
As I enter my 62nd year on the third rock from the sun, you find me in Warwick.

More specifically, at an induction course for OneSchool Global's UK branch (currently called Focus).

Last night, in the bar, I opened up The Guardian and gasped as I saw the obit for Marty Balin - sometime vocalist and writer for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship (he was a classy guy so he avoided the jump to Starship).

Yes, I gasped and let out an, "Oh No". Marty was only 76. 


Today his music, some of the best music of my youth, will be cruising around my head as I participate in my induction (thankfully not called 'onboarding' from what I've seen of the literature so far).

Thanks again Marty (and Paul Kantner who passed away in 2016).

Monday, September 24, 2018

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony (Mahatma Gandhi)

Photo by John Weinhardt on Unsplash
Decluttering: the process of removing unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded place.

In this case, it's the staff areas at my campus.

Staff are resistant. I can sense it. They think I'm mad, I suspect. If not mad, then unhinged to a certain degree. Or suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Whatever. I'm staying the course, pinning my ears back and getting on with it.

Yesterday, I wondered aloud at our Lean Meeting about two huge piles of old and out dated text books in the staff work area that comes up to my chest. I'm not joking.

There was kind of an uneasy silence before someone said, "They've been there for ages. No one wants them. We just couldn't bear to throw them away".

Definition of decluttering right there, yeah!

"Okay", I said. "They're going in the skip. Today!"

There will be tears before bedtime, I suspect, before I'm done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'Cause when you worry your face will frown and that will bring everybody down (Bobby McFerrin)


Okay, so we're three weeks in to the new term/new year and the honeymoon period is, unofficially, over.

And I mean the two to three week period that kicks of a new academic year, as well as the period teachers have when they join a new school (as I have).

Funnily enough, I was in the staff room, reading a TES article about how to sustain the two week honeymoon when the door opened and a staff member alerted me to a situation that I needed to handle. 

Laugh! 

The message in the article chimed nicely with my optimistic personality. It advised keeping the positivity and rewards coming in the face of chalk-face reality.

Seems to me the only way. Choosing the negative and the punishment route is not an option that sustains happiness for anyone. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mr Blue Sky, please tell us why (ELO)

Rocking the lanyard at Focus School (Kenley)

Lanyard land! 

In the nineties, while I was the Senior Housemaster at School House (Mt Albert Grammar), the trendy item for us blokes was a bum bag. Do you remember them?

Side bar: the current trend is for them to be worn diagonally over one shoulder but they still like geeky.

I digress. Lanyards are everywhere! All the staff have to wear one. But it's not restricted to our school, or even UK schools. They are everywhere! Everywhere I go - people are wearing lanyards. Literally.

Side bar #2 Not really, but then again - literally everyone says, 'literally' - and again, not really).

I'm struggling a little with the concept. It's not like anyone is looking at them (partly because they have the annoying habit of slipping over to a blank side - yes, I know, they should be two sided, but as I've mentioned - no one looks at them anyway).

What's the go? Are we all thinking we're medical practitioners or working in a nuclear facility with security needs paramount in our minds?

Clearly - I don't get it. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

When you see the shadows falling, when you hear that cold wind calling - hold on tight to your dream (ELO)

Photo by John T on Unsplash
Within striving for a quality education system, there's a battle between learning/growing as a person and assessment ratings; it is clearly an ongoing struggle within the English system that involves GCSE and A Levels.

It's deeply entrenched and made tougher to approach with its concentration on examinations at the end of each year.

Among other things, politicians love to measure and quantify things.

Final exams make the failure so much bigger. Incremental failures along the way with internal assessments are valuable. They allow the failures (and successes) to accrue more organically.

My students have recently received their results. I implored them to remember the feeling they had when they got them, whether it was elation at one end of the continuum, or profound disappointment at the other.

Let that feeling drive you.

And above all else - hold on tight to your dreams.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Get into the groove (Madonna)

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Wahoo!! The holidays are over!! 

Thank goodness! School's back in session.

Am I some parent keen to see my kids back to the chalk-face?

Am I 'eck as like!!

I'm a Head Teacher and I'm so glad to get back into the groove again.

Life can return to normal. No more days of wine and roses, coffee and cakes.

Early morning rituals returned this week and weekends re-emerged out of the holiday soup.

All the buzz of a new school year is back once again - the anticipation, the promise, the trepidation, the possibility, the potential.

Purpose has returned!!

There's nothing like it, is there?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Everybody can't be on top but life it ain't real funky unless it's got that pop (Prince)


Apologies for this one - I'm veering off slightly because school hasn't started yet in the UK and we have spent the last two weeks settling in to our new surroundings in Surrey.

First purchases: kettle; toaster; iron; TV; vinyl; CDs; stereo. Pretty much in that order. 

These priorities are firmly established!

Part of that process has also been catching up with friends and family and having a mini break. 

Reason for that being the next long holiday I'll have will be next July (sob). 

Outside of my parents' friends and my brother, my cousin Christine has probably known me the longest: fifty years (say it in a shaky granddad voice).

So it was a priority to meet up with her and her family (97 year old mother and her three children - Tom, Lewis and Fran).

During the visit Tom passed on a copy of his book, Pop Life. It details a year of gigs after he decided to attend one a week following Prince's sudden death.

It's amazingly great! Although it helps knowing him and the people around him, I would have loved this book regardless.

It's well written, extremely funny, on a subject that fuels my life as it does Tom's and his personal voice shines through every sentence.

Here's Tom recounting preparation for a gig by Francis Lung. a younger brother of an ex-girlfriend: 
My brother, a friend of Francis Lung, planned to attend the show, as did trusty Rhys and Eleri who kindly offered to make me a disguise for the evening using a paper plate, colouring crayons and pipe cleaners. I decided against this on the combined grounds of personal pride and laziness.
Pop Life is published by Novum. Get yer copy hereIt's very much worth the effort!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Laugh, laugh, I nearly died (The Rolling Stones)


Okay, so funniest thing that happened during my first meeting with my management team (of 6) was when I was asked how I wished to be addressed around the school in front of students.

Erm, Mr Purdy was my response.

Then I was asked how I wished to be addressed by staff in the staff areas - was it Mr Purdy, Head Teacher or Head? 

Erm...Warren...was my tentative reply!!

They all laughed and so did I.

Seems they are used to a higher level of formality in the school than I need.

And way higher than I am used to at Kaipara Campus in the mighty Maungaturoto. 

I'm sure my colleagues there will get a kick out of that!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Here comes the sun (George Harrison)



The start of my UK stint as Head Teacher of a OneSchool Global campus and it’s all getting keys, having a tour, meeting people, and getting a lie of the land/taking the pulse/surveying the terrain.

There’s a lot to be done and I’m ready to roll my sleeves up (yes, literally).

First thing that made my ears prick up? When I commented on seeing a familiar LEAN board in the staff dining area and my new colleague said – oh, mmm, that just arrived and we don’t know what we should do with it. Like all the ideas it seems, they start in NZ and eventually they arrive here! 

Noice!

Monday, August 13, 2018

You say goodbye and I say hello (The Beatles)


The farewell I received from my Kaipara campus was unbelievable!

Very humbling, and emotional: from Brittany's handshake, to the seniors' passionate haka and farewell song, from the gifts (Fopp voucher will come in verrrrrrry handy) and cards to the special afternoon put on by the staff. And my video blooper reel from Cath and Sarah! 

Naively, I didn't expect all that. It was all overwhelming.

I promised to keep in touch, and I will. 

School here doesn't start for a few weeks so I have time to get acclimatised and settle back into life in England (which I love!!). 

But I'm planning to send back a video as a catch up as soon as I can. 

Until then, be careful out there!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Three indications of lame duck hood


Lame duck hood. That weird twilight zone area between leaving a job and taking up a new one.

I'm experiencing it again.

How do I know this?

1 A student approaches me, smiling, holding a piece of paper and says, "Are you still authorised to sign this?"

2 The shadowing interim Principal is mentioned to me as, The Boss.

3 A staff member asks me a question but after I pause a fraction too long, says, "You've already left, haven't you?"

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind (Led Zeppelin)

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Weirdly, I've heard Stairway to Heaven twice on the radio in the last week.

Seems to me it's a song about searching. Searching for the ideal, the mythical, the unobtainable, But it's an honest search. A worthwhile and laudable search.

Our lives are like that, and part of my life, a big part, is the search for doing what I can do better as a leader.

This morning, my students gave me a good lesson in persistence. Fittingly, while searching for a photo. 

Somehow, a class photo had slid between two parts of a couch in the Learning Centre. Many theories were advanced and tried. But without success.

It seemed a hopeless case and rather than wreck the couch getting to the photo I thought it best to pay for a new photo (they'd just been handed out so it wasn't a tragedy and not difficult to pay 15 dollars for another copy).

My students threw back at me my 'never give up, never surrender' mantra. It took 30 minutes but together with me operating a crowbar and them devising a sticky tape ruler device - we snared the photo.

Cue - much - 'see Mr P, you should have been more positive' comments.

Quite right they were, too. Quite right!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I'm still not sure what part I play, in this shadow play (Rory Gallagher)

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash
This shadowing lark has got me thinking.

How do I make the most of this situation for myself and for my incoming interim replacement?

It's 2018 - so I googled 'shadowing'.

As a consequence, some helpful suggestions popped up:

  • Tell the shadow about myself – my own education and career path, and my style of leadership
  • Explain the school ethos in general 
  • Take the shadow on a tour – introduce him to co-workers, show him around the office or site, and give an overview of what the work environment is like 
  • Set aside time for him to intentionally ask questions about the job and organisation
  • Show the shadow how I work – allow him to observe daily tasks as much as possible, such as specific projects, staff/parent/student meetings, routines like Thursday reports   
  • Suggest next action steps – guide the shadow toward more resources (human or otherwise)

I'm up for this experience but key to it working well will be the shadow's attitude. I've met plenty of senior managers who don't listen well, don't actually want to listen (thinking they are the complete bee's knees), or who don't engage with the process (for whatever reason).

Time will tell how this one works out!